Saturday, February 04, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: Being Woke While Finding Rest

Dear Readers,

Lots of good conversations today on social media. Unsurprisingly, I had many opinions. Among the highlights were White Fragility (I've got it, even if only half of me; boy do I have a temper), Black History Month (Sucks that we need it; hate it when Black folk get whitewashed in folks' representations of them; there are so many good resources out there, if only we'll look for them), and the term "woke" (those thoughts below).

There were also, of course, discussions about funny kids and cute kittens and ridiculous politicians (on both sides), and prayer for folks with depression, arrogance (I struggle with both), cancer, and other ailments.

On the topic of being "woke," there's a lot to be said. Is it a legit term? Is it a legit term for white folks to use, or is that just more cultural appropriation? Is it merely divisive and alienating? Is it too either/or, meaning you're either completely aware of racial issues/you have arrived, or you're completely ignorant/hopelessly racist? Has it just become a catchphrase, a badge of honor, an easy way to even pretend to be an activist, without having to actually do anything active?

In addition to all these reasonable concerns, my two cents in the conversation was that I worry that it's 1) dismissive to folks who can't help but be aware of systemic racial injustices, because it's their reality, all-day, every-day (so being "woke" [as opposed to oblivious] is almost a privilege in and of itself), and 2) being woke can become the anti-gospel to finding our rest in the Lord. Because we forget that reconciliation is the business that God is in. We forget that racial reconciliation is God's battle, and that we partner with him in it. Because we get so wrapped up in ourselves and our fight that we forget that we not only can rest--even those in the direst of situations--but we must rest. We must rest in Jesus.

And yes, I do still use the term "woke."

Even in that statement about choosing to rest, I know my privilege is showing. But there are too many activists who have been so woke that they died--sometimes literally--not from systemic injustice and brutality, but from depression, hopelessness, and despair. There are too many folk who are so woke they drown in their own anger and despair. They end up, unwittingly, taking the nooses that society has placed around their necks and tightening them. And that shouldn't happen--especially with believers. We must not stay woke so long that we hallucinate. We must not stay woke so long that we pass out at the wheel and crash. We must not stay woke so long that we lash out at our family and friends.

Y'all know I love puns. And I have this metaphorical "Free Shipping" schtick. So I could throw in a... sleeping pill... or turkey/tryptophan... or even warm milk analogy, but this is too serious (and yes--I'm too tired) to broker in cheap, silly analogies. So here are some links for you, friends. Imma post this and then go to bed.

Rest well, my woke siblings.


Image-bearing men, women, and children--who endured the brutality of slavery--sang this, and we can join them in resting in the Lord:

https://www.negrospirituals.com/songs/his_eye_is_on_the_sparrow.htm


My dear friend Karen Canevaro blogged about being truthfully gracious and graciously truthful, as a way to not burn ourselves and others out:

http://thereformedperfectionist.blogspot.com/2017/01/between-two-weekends-better-way-to-be.html


Practical, thoughtful, beautiful advice on engaging the world with safe boundaries--H/T Nicole Silva:

http://www.anndouglas.net/blog/2017/1/30/how-to-avoid-being-psychologically-destroyed-by-your-newsfeed


More amazing suggestions, from a sister on the front lines:

https://themighty.com/2016/09/healing-and-processing-racial-trauma-in-the-black-community/


I want to get this tee soon. Such truth. H/T Cirilo Manego:

https://madebyrebels.com/products/ive-been-to-the-future-we-won


If you find this link to be TL;DR, then go with this statement about the importance of grounding our activism in our faith in Jesus, "When they go low, we go deep."
NOTE: in case you don't know, that's an homage to Michelle Obama's instructions to her daughters about dealing with bullies--"When they go low, we go high." I wish he'd directly credited Mrs. Obama, but that's a discussion for another time. Still, really good stuff. H/T Stephanie Holmer:

https://sojo.net/articles/5-spiritual-survival-strategies-trump-era


We all of us need the faith of a child to find our rest in Jesus. Perhaps the "easy burden" and the "light yoke" is not so much doing the good work of the Kingdom but in resting in Jesus while he works in us. Matthew chapter 11:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11%3A25-30&version=ESV

Friday, January 27, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: Diving into Depression

Dear Readers,

So I finally posted on social media about my struggles with depression. I've been open about it in real life, if not necessarily adamant nor vocal, but I certainly hadn't gone into it on a platform like Twitter or Facebook. I think I reached a point where I thought, "Pretty much all of my 'dirty laundry' has been aired on social media, so why not this?" And then after I posted, I thought, "Oh dear. I remember the answer to 'why not this?' Because people on the internet can be really horrible."

But I was pleasantly surprised. It was amazing that no trolls showed up to do their hateful, trollish things, and more importantly, community showed up. I was honored and humbled by the number of people who sent their love and prayers. And I was blown away by the number of people who said, "Me, too. I'm there with you." It was beautiful solidarity.

And I also realized, this isn't just dirty laundry to be shamefully avoided. No, depression is real, and actually fairly common, and it doesn't care whether we have time or not for it. Sharing about my struggles isn't airing my dirty laundry, and I'm tired of thinking it is.

So today, for your metaphorical consumption, is a box on your doorstep of clean laundry. Shiny new packages of socks, crisply folded shirts. And some of it yes, is "unmentionables," because sharing about mental illness is vulnerable. It's not showing off a new hat or fabulous shoes. It's revealing, and scary, and I know this analogy has taken a slightly creepy turn. Let me get it back (hopefully) by saying, here's a nice box of new, clean clothes. Let's air them out. Dirty laundry doesn't need to be aired out, it needs to be washed. New clothes need to be aired out, to get rid of that factory smell.

Yeah, I tried to reclaim the analogy, but it appears to have taken a life all it's own. Perhaps I should give up the "Free (pretend) Shipping" schtick, but I'm a sucker for word play and analogy. It's like that one time that I

You know, it may be me that's actually the problem, not the analogy. Which reminds me of

THE POINT IS, I refuse to be ashamed because I'm mentioning things which society deems to be "unmentionables." And I hope the links below will help those who struggle and help those who love them.


A witty, ironic tee shirt for you--a comic artist who illustrates her struggles with depression and anxiety and it's painfully hilarious:

https://www.instagram.com/rubyetc_/?hl=en
http://rubyetc.tumblr.com


Socks. Multicolored, multi-patterned socks. Practical yet ridiculous--an amazing podcast which will make you laugh, cry, and curse, all in the same 40 minutes:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2016/12/24/podcast-pick-hilarious-world-of-depression/95716856/


A pair of comfy jeans that don't even need to be broken in--a website/community with great information and encouragement:

https://themighty.com/mental-illness/


And finally, some underthings. What we all need to put on, and not be ashamed of--go to counseling. It is life-changing, and sometimes life-saving. And if you aren't sure where to start with counseling, please ask. Ask me, ask a friend, heck--this WebMD page might be the one time it actually does more  good than harm:

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-resources#1

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To a Princely King, a Self-proclaimed King, and the King of All Kings

"Movement to Overcome," Michael Pavlovsky, Memphis Civil Rights Museum


NOTE: This was supposed to be published for MLK Day. Clearly, it wasn't. I hope it's still an encouragement. I believe it's still timely. I believe discussion of Dr. King's legacy will remain timely for many, many years to come.

Dear Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

I was first asked to write this piece for The Well. I had it all planned out, especially after reading Michael Eric Dyson's beautifully controversial book about you. In some ways, you were the best of brothers. You fought hard for justice. You spoke for those who had been robbed of their God-given voice. You sacrificed much--most notably your life--for the cause of equality among human beings. You fought for all Christians--black and white--to see each other as brothers and sisters. A dear brother, and much missed.

But in some ways, you were not a good brother.

In I May Not Get There With You, Dr. Dyson talks about why it is important to see your entire story and not overlook who you truly were, the good and the bad. As I read it, I thought, "Yes! What a great word. I'll talk about what a good brother MLK was, then about how he wasn't perfect, and how women in the academy and professions can partner with good, but humanly flawed brothers, as we pursue the best of brothers--Jesus!" It was a great concept, and I was excited to write it.

I researched. I outlined. I drafted. I enjoyed the process. And then two things happened.

First, Trump won the election. And as it came to my attention that MLK Day 2017 would fall just four days before the Inauguration, I began to struggle with writing. Suddenly my neat categories were blown apart. As the time went on from November until the present, the lines between yourself and President (then Elect) Trump were in some ways clearer, but in some ways blurrier. And most of those "blurred lines" (yes, I'm quoting from that horrible song, because sadly, it's applicable here) were in the treatment of women. This did not help my writer's block any.

Secondly, I overcommitted myself to a number of projects, I missed the draft deadline, and I started to not just struggle with what to write, but to actually doubt if I could write it. Procrastination, fear, shame, and exhaustion all combined to make the work of writing about you just too hard. I knew you were flawed, and I could forgive you for those flaws. Until your flaws lined up too eerily with Mr. Trump's flaws, and then I had to re-think everything.

Ironically, it was that wrestling with your flaws that brought me back to writing, and purpose, and ultimately, back to thinking about Jesus--which is where I had wanted this piece to lead all along. Because I realized that you, too, dealt with procrastination, fear, shame, and exhaustion. You, too, made promises you did not keep, and you, too, had to rely on the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ to make sense of things and keep going in faith.

So what do I want to say to you?  It seems a bit grandiose to say "I forgive you" when I never met you, never was affected by your infidelity or your crudeness. And yet, as a woman, aren't I? As a woman living in a culture where women are thought of as lesser, where women are debased, dehumanized, and objectified, don't I bear the burden of every one who has ever (myself included) allowed coarse talk about women? Who has allowed the sanctity of marriage to be cast aside to the idols of convenience and lust? Isn't the point of Dr. Dyson's book that if we are to properly celebrate the legacy of your life, we must do it whole-heartedly, without reserve, and without skimming over the uncomfortable parts?

Many amazing women of the 1960's Civil Rights Era put up with a lot of nonsense from men, including yourself. They persevered. They still do. And God used you to accomplish much for both men and women. God did that, and you and I can (and will, someday!) join our voices in praise of his work.

So I forgive you, Dr. King. I am incredibly grateful to your legacy. Because unlike some other leaders, you did point to Jesus. Unlike some other sinners, you wrestled with your sin, and depended desperately on the forgiveness of God. And that is what it looks like to partner with good brothers, such as yourself, who are also fallen, sinful men. We wrestle with our sin, and we depend desperately on the forgiveness of God.

With incalculable gratitude,
A sister and fellow activist.


Dear President Trump,

I really wrestled with whether to include you in this post or not. When I asked my dear husband, who is one of the most respectful men (of women, and of people in general) I know, he thought I shouldn't even mention you. Shouldn't sully the legacy of Dr. King by in any way putting you alongside him. On the one hand, I agree with this. In the same way that I will not waste my time (or my typing) mentioning the name of the Charleston shooter who took the lives of Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight other beautiful souls, I don't want to waste this special time of reflecting on the work of Dr. King by entertaining hateful, non-peaceful, anti-gospel work.

But as I studied the life (and times) of Dr. King, the similarities to how you treat and think of women became too much to ignore.

Many would argue that you are far beyond Dr. King in your empowering of women. In fact, you have women in roles of leadership, where Dr. King honestly didn't. That still does not score you a point, sir. Because despite his infidelity, despite his rough talk, and ignorant attitude toward women leaders, Dr. King still exhibited restraint. Whereas you dismissed your crude comments about women as being mere "locker room talk," and therefore tried to justify your attitude, Dr. King had at least some sense of reason, of shame. Though he was both culpable and a product of his times, he was foremost a professing Christian. He was a man who knew he wasn't perfect and who had much to repent for.

Because in the end, what set Dr. King apart from you was the fact that he knew he was a sinner. He knew he needed Jesus. He knew he wasn't Jesus. Your words--where you say that you've never asked for forgiveness, because you don't need it--show that you are not a believer. Just on the level of basic beliefs, you have disqualified yourself. And that doesn't mean there isn't common grace at work in your life. No, far from it. Because I respect God as the ultimate authority, I will respect you. I will respect you as president, because I respect the office and the system that has produced it. Even if I feel like you yourself are not respecting the office nor our country, I will fight to stay respectful in my disagreements. Even as I point out what I believe are facts about your misogyny, even as I protest what I believe are violent statements against the most vulnerable, even as I disagree vehemently with your hateful speech about immigrants, I will do so properly, with gratitude for the privilege of being in this country. Not because I at all agree with you or your tactics, but because Dr. King showed a better way. Dr. King followed the way of Jesus.

Praying for you,
A (fellow) citizen.


Dear King Jesus,

I'm tired, dear elder brother. Worn out from being mad, sad, and everything in-between. I need your rest, for I am weary. I need your sanctifying work, for I am sinful. I need your affirming presence, for I am shamed and belittled. And I need your guidance, brother. I need your perfect example, your gracious welcome, your comforting and radical proclamation as the first fruit of the redemption that is to come. I need you. We need you--your church the world over. Heal us, Emmanuel. Heal our country in a way in which it has never really been. It's been yours along--all things are--but we ask for hearts to be changed, Lord. We ask for your kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. We ask for you to be exalted, for governments and institutions to cease, for the blessing to come of basking in your light alone. We don't ask for you to fill the presidency, Lord. We ask for you to fulfill the scriptures and magnify yourself. Come, Lord Jesus. We desperately need you.

Gratefully,
Your little sister.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: Understand Our Lament

Dear Readers,

Well, the day is here. Inauguration Day 2017. The installation of our nation's 45th president. A lot of people are happy. Happy because they hate Obama, and/or because they love Trump. Happy because they're politically more conservative. Happy because they realize that political freedom, the peaceful transfer of power, and a (fairly) stable government are all gifts from God.

But a lot of us are grieving today. And some of us are ambivalent, and some of us are torn. Grieving because we/they love Obama and/or because we/they hate Trump. Grieving because we're/they're politically more conservative. Grieving because political freedom feels like a sham, the peaceful transfer of power feels overshadowed by the violence inherent in the new president, and because this fairly stable government feels shaky, especially for the "least of these."

And many of us/them are ambivalent because we're/they're tired. Many are ambivalent because it all feels like too much. Some are even ambivalent because we/they want to focus on the kingdom. (But if I dismissively hear "God is on the throne" one. more. time...)

A lot of folks are torn. Because we/they don't like Obama OR Trump. Torn because we/they are politically conservative, but still want to value the "stranger and the alien." Torn because we/they are politically liberal, but still want to value the life of the unborn. Torn because political freedom comes at a price, and with a consequence. Torn because it's hard to see where God is right now, in this peaceful transfer of power in a stable, but partisan, government.

If you are not in the middle category--grieving--and you want to understand better those of us who are, maybe these links will help. And if you are, like me, grieving AND torn, know that I lament with you. My family and I sit in solidarity, as best we can, with those that will be most affected by the new administration. With those who will be violently affected by the new administration.

And if you're happy today, well... I dunno. I join you in praying for our 45th president, even if the content of our prayers are very, very different.


To help you understand our lament:

http://www.shannondingle.com/blog//i-want-to-help-you-understand-my-lament

http://reformedmargins.com/common-grace-co-belligerence-lamentable-election-cycle/


To help you understand our rage and fear:

https://www.raanetwork.org/trumps-election-feeling-safe-white-evangelical-churches/?utm_content=bufferc88ec&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2016/11/the-alt-right-movement-harassed-my.html?m=1


To help you understand the joy we're tryna cling to, like we're drowning (because we are):

https://www.raanetwork.org/donald-trump-presidency-john-18/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammy_Duckworth

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/09/24/opinion/henry-louis-gates-jr-restoring-black-history.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone&_r=0&referer=

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/09/a-silver-lining-on-election-night-first-latina-elected-to-u-s-senate/?utm_term=.8d1b190f4a1d

https://faithforjustice.com/2017/01/03/pledge-of-resistance/
(H/T Michelle Higgins)


Friday, January 13, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: An Apology

Dear Readers,

I owe you an apology. All of you, whether you are fired up about racial issues (on either side), completely ambivalent, or--most likely--somewhere in-between. Because I saw a racially-charged incident today, and I didn't do anything.

I was at the gas station, spacing out and pumping gas, when a car pulled in. A car running on the fuel of stereotype. A car blaring rap at high volume, full of angry young black men, making sure that everybody knew it. I may be fairly woke, but to my old and weary ears, it was obnoxious. I'll admit it.

Perhaps that's a racial incident in and of itself. Perhaps that's the discussion we really need to be having here, the discussion that I wasn't even tryna be... annoyed out of my complacence by their pain and anger. I just wanted to pump my gas and let some caffeine kick in.

So y'all tell me. But until then, I'll continue with the incident as I saw it. The car drove up, I (at least mentally) rolled my eyes, and then someone spoke. Also loudly.

"An ounce of C-4 would cure that noise!"

Imma let it sink in for you for a moment, dear readers. Some of you may already be pissed. Some of you might be confused. Some of you may not think it's a big deal.

I'm pissed, but also confused, and it is definitely a big deal. A big damn deal.

This was not a random thing. It's actually scarily specific. An ounce? Of C-4? Does this guy have some at home, and next time, he might decide to use it? Does he have experience with explosives? Perhaps in some ways it would have been scarier and more inappropriate if he had said something about using a gun, but in some ways, not so much. Because lots of people have guns. And lots of people threaten to use them. And that in itself is an inappropriate threat of violence. A mass murderer of nine black folks in Charleston, SC was just sentenced to death, and such gun violence must be condemned. But four little black girls also died when white supremacists bombed a church in Birmingham in 1963, and I fear that those days are closer than we think.

In a "Trump America," people feel free to speak these threats out loud. And I've now heard it in person.

You might try to tell me that it wasn't racially motivated. We can agree to disagree on that one (even though I think you are completely wrong), because it doesn't matter what this guy's motivations were. The fact remains that a white man vocally relished the idea of ending black lives and thought that was appropriate, even welcomed. He thought the rest of us white folks at the pumps would agree with him. He thought he was in the right, and in the majority, and in charge. That's a dangerous combination.

Please don't try to tell me he was "just joking." I don't care if he was just joking. There was a real threat behind it. Because he had already dismissed those young men as so much "noise." He had already de-humanized them and decided that violence was the solution to ridding this world of that noise. Don't try to tell me that he was picturing taking the people out of the car and then throwing C-4 at just the car. Just don't. Whether or not he would ever go through on it, whether or not he pictured it in detail, is not the point. The point is that he contemplated violence as a way to end an inconvenience to his happiness. The point is that in his mind, black lives don't matter. I guarantee you that he would not have said that if it had been young white men. He probably would have said somebody should have spanked them more when they were little, and I'd have agreed. But he didn't, and I don't.

And did I mention that I'm pissed? Because I am pissed, and more than anything at myself.

Remember when I said I owed all of you an apology? I owe you an apology because I didn't say anything. At first I didn't say anything because my initial response was sarcastic. And that's never helpful in racial matters with strangers. And then I didn't say anything because I was in shock. Who shouts such a thing to the world at large? Did he really just say that? Did I really just hear that?

But then I didn't say anything because I was afraid. And confused. And ashamed.

He drove off, and the "offending" car did, too. And I stood at the pump for I don't know how long, until I realized that my gas pump was done, and it was time for me to get back in my car, and drive away, too. "Wait!" I called weakly. "Sir, come back. I don't agree, and I need to tell you that. Violence is never the right answer to an offense..."

He didn't come back, obviously. And it's probably a good thing. Dude had a hair-trigger temper, probably a shotgun in his truck, and a hair-trigger trigger finger. At best, would he really have been able to hear me? I doubt it.

But maybe it would have mattered that I had said something. Maybe it would have mattered to some of the other folks, who all seemed uncomfortable, as well. And it would have mattered to Jesus for me to stick up for the imago dei in everybody, even that angry man.

So, now for my apology. And "Wait!" you say. "Isn't this a 'Free Shipping Friday' post? Sure has been a lot of YOU talking, Chandra. Where are the recommended links? Where are others' voices, hm?"

I'M GETTING THERE. THIS IS MY BLOG AND IF I WANNA
Sorry, one more thing to apologize for.

So, I apologize to the sisters in this article:

http://thewell.intervarsity.org/voices/reaching-black-students-and-faculty-interview-charlene-brown

Charlene, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for the image of God in Black folks.
Nancy, I'm sorry I didn't stand alongside you, as a white woman, advocating for a Black sister.


I apologize to the brother who wrote this post:

https://www.facebook.com/dukekwon/posts/10154790213017834?pnref=story

Duke, I'm sorry I chickened out. You speak bravely every day, from both a position of minority and privilege, and I had a chance to join you. Pray that I will next time.


I apologize to the sister who wrote this important piece:

https://www.raanetwork.org/cultural-trauma-acculturated-jesus/

Christina, I'm sorry I didn't stand up against further trauma. Further trauma for all of us, further denigration of human beings, further silencing of voices--even my own.


I apologize to the sister who penned this vulnerable, insightful post:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10102529715461996&id=26501582

Emily, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for your beautiful brown babies. Your wonderful black husband. Your fabulous so-very-white-lady-but-mama-of-color-and-that-matters self. They matter. You matter. I see you, and I rejoice.


This post isn't meant to be all "Woe is meeeeee... now somebody please tell me I'm good." It really isn't. I'm not beating myself up, I'm picking myself up, and moving forward in repentance. I'm not tryna get your sympathy, or respect, or accolades. Or at least the redeemed part of me isn't. What I know is that confession and redemption are good for the soul--are the very basis of the gospel--so imma apologize first, and ask questions later. I think the more we spend time sincerely apologizing to each other, and the less time we spend questioning (read: interrogating) each other, we'll see more of this kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I apologize to the hateful, violent guy, for not speaking truth to you. Whether you were in a position to hear it is up to God. But I was in a position to share it, and I didn't. I wish I had, graciously and calmly.

I apologize to you, dear readers. If this post has pissed you off, left you raw, make you feel inadequate, helpless, or just plain antagonized, I'm sorry. I truly am. Can we talk about it? I hope so.

And to our beautiful creator God, I apologize. And I move forward in your truth. Because you are the God of redemption, of healing, of truth, of reconciliation, of bravery, of goodness. My apology is both necessary and also dealt with, because my sin is dealt with. Hallelujah! Hallelujah.

Monday, December 12, 2016

To A Cold Front

photo credit Erin Kennedy White


Dear Wintry Weather,

Well, you've finally arrived, even here in Mississippi. I like the idea of cold weather, just not the actuality. I love the idea of snow and blustery snowball fights and icicles hanging from the eaves. Unfortunately, that doesn't really happen around here. No snow; no crisp, glittery mornings; no brittle, clear, frosty nights. Just cold. And rain. And more cold. 

I know Northerners think we're hilarious. Anything above freezing is no big deal in the North. But here in the South, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is about where we start whimpering, and when it gets below freezing--especially if it's rainy--we feel it in our bones. We've got thin blood; we're just not built for cold weather. 

I don't love wearing bulky coats, even though a trenchcoat with a pair of Chucks always makes me feel a little like the dashing Tenth Doctor. We are notorious in our house for losing mittens, scarves, hats, etc. We have to bundle up the baby, take her outside, then strip off her coat so that we can actually snap her in her carseat. Winter apparel, especially when there's no snow, feels like more trouble than it's worth. 

I'll tell you what else I don't like about you, wintry weather. It's hard to forget the poor when it gets cold outside. Each night, sitting around our table, eating warm food with people I love, I have a hard time not feeling guilty about those that don't have a table, or warm food, or a family. I am keenly aware, as I tuck my babies into their snuggly, safe beds, that there are mamas out there who aren't able to provide that safety and warmth for their babies. 

It's easier during warm weather to forget these hard things. To forget that there are still those that are thirsty, overheated, and dangerously unprotected from the elements in summer. Hot weather can be just as deadly as cold weather, but somehow it's easier to ignore the plight that others face, when it's hot outside. In summer, there's a certain solidarity where we all melt, and pant, and wilt away in the heat. In winter, when my loved ones are safe within our home's walls, I feel the exclusion of it all--the fact that there are "haves," and there are "have-nots." Summer feels like camaraderie, like warmth, like light. Winter feels like alienation, like a chill that won't go away, like darkness. 

So I don't like you, cold weather. I want to enjoy God's good gifts, to be grateful for what God has provided. But there's something about cold weather that makes that hard to do. And because of my selfishness, wintry weather doesn't necessarily make me more generous, more prayerful, or more active to help those in need. It just makes me feel guiltier. In a season which is full of busyness and family and travel and so many things--good and bad--to be praying about, I selfishly want to avoid feelings that I can't control, can't sculpt, can't hang lights on and make pretty. 

I guess I can't use a cold front as a scapegoat any longer. Really, I should be addressing God. And addressing the poor. But how? How does one thank God for all that I have and then cry out in anger for those who don't, all in the same breath? How does one see the inherent humanity in those outside? How does one not reduce the poor to a monolithic, faceless group of people that is so easy to dismiss?

Well, God, I guess I'll look to your Word and ask these questions. So I cry out to you, "How long?" I join the Psalmist in asking for justice and your mercy on your people (Psa. 79:5).

I ask for your shalom to come--which necessitates your justice--and I join with the prophet Jeremiah in speaking your words that we, God's people, must seek the good of our cities (Jer. 29:7). 

Along with the tax collector, I beg for your mercy on me, a sinner (Lk. 18:13), and ask you to change my heart, to make me see with your eyes, to break my heart for those in any type of need. I join with Jesus as he looked out over Jerusalem and wept at the misery of his people (Lk. 19:41).

As a drowning person among other drowning people, I ask that you bring me forward in conviction, O Lord, to do your will. To join you in making things right. I cast my guilt away as a scheme of the devil, and desire only to serve you, Lord. I listen to the pangs of hunger that others are feeling, I shiver in the cold that others must constantly live with, and I weep with the loneliness that image-bearers feel, especially during the cold and the holidays. 

And what can I say to you, the hungry, the cold, the homeless, the destitute and the grieving? I will say, I see you. I see your needs, and I want to help meet them. But I also see your imago dei--your status as deserving of respect and dignity because God made you. I see your uniqueness--I will not yield to easy stereotypes nor blame-shifting which abdicates me of all responsibility in your plight. I see you, and I will not look away in shame for either of us. 

And to my family and fellow believers, I say, let us join together in doing God's work. We must pray, and then listen, and then act. We will do good, not to get rid of uncomfortable realizations and guilt, but to be in solidarity with fellow human beings. We will do good, not in a position of power, but recognizing our own desperate, needy state. We will do good because we realize that without God we have nothing and can do nothing. We will do good because God has given us resources to grow his kingdom, and "there, but for the grace of God, go we." Because we recognize that what separates us from those outside in the cold has nothing to do with us or our supposed goodness. And we recognize our frailty, and even that sometimes, we too, are lonely, even in our warm, glowing homes. 

The question we must ask ourselves is not, "Will we invite the sojourner, the stranger, and the needy to our dinner table?" The proper question is "How? How do you want us to serve, God?" Some of us are called to host international students, or others without family nearby. Some of us are called to scale back our food budget, so as to be able to give more to our churches and worthy charities. Some of us are called to foster or adopt. Some of us are called to serve at soup kitchens, children's homes, or homeless shelters. There are as many ways to serve as there are believers to do the serving, if only we'll listen to God's call. Some of us are called to bring people to our table and some to bring the table to those in need, but all are asked to pray. We all must sit with the painful reality that he sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), especially when it's freezing rain. We all must confront the truth that some have shelter from those cold rains, but others do not. We all must be willing--even as we embrace our families and thank God for all he has done for us--to lament the injustices of the world and continue to ask God to use us to love our fellow humans. 

Shivering, but grateful,
A Fellow Human Being.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Free Shipping Fridays: Seeing with Different Eyes


Dear Readers,

One of the sweetest--and most terrifying--moments is when you are really and truly seen by someone else for who you are. One of the hardest--and most gratifying--moments is when you really and truly see someone else for who they are. And one of the most amazing--and most absurd--moments is when, seeing God, you realize that God sees us all for who we are, he offers forgiveness, he loves us, and he wants to help us see through his eyes, too. Like I said, amazing and absurd.

As we strive to see with God's eyes, I believe that is part of why God has given us--the body--to each other (1 Cor. 12). Because some of us are "eyes," more naturally attuned to seeing the suffering of others, we can help those who are gifted in other areas. And as I think about my natural inclinations to see so much around me, and my desire to speak truth and do good, what I think I'm learning is that one can't always be an eye, and a mouth, and ears, and hands, and feet, etc. etc. all at once, and not be exhausted. Exhausted and feeling alone, and no where near being secure in God's best way, which is for his people to work and grow together.

For today's free shipping of intangible goodness, I'm following the example of companies that send glasses straight to your door. You get a box--usually of four different frames--and you try them on. No obligation, just a chance to see if something new might work for you. So try these on for size. Let us see together, friends. Let us also listen together, and let us figure out together what work God has for us, as he purifies and cleanses us, his dear church. Here are a few links that may help each of us see each other differently, and learn more about listening, as we serve together. 


My friend and colleague Stephanie showed me this amazing piece about how we stereotype people:


My dear sister in the faith, Erin, and I think a lot alike. Check out her recent piece on the Reformed African American Network:



My brother in Christ (though we've never met) Tim Challies talks about confronting others Biblically and wisely. This was eye-opening to me, in terms of my own issues and my own hypocrisy. I need to see others through a more Biblical lens. We all do:



And finally, an HBS Review article about the practical importance of seeing others' viewpoints, and how it affects our ability to lead and serve:

https://hbr.org/2013/04/how-to-really-understand-someo